Any regular user of web based mediums will have seen the rise of the use of app style icons, spawning from the Apple iPhone and spreading throughout websites across the land. They are now being regularly used to harness simplified versions of logos belonging to familiar social media platforms such as Facebook, Linked In and Twitter. Here is a relatively simple way of making your own:


If you want to cross refer to my .ai file, you can download it by clicking here

Step 1: Start New Document

Set up a brand new Illustrator document, at a large enough size to work on. For the purpose of this tutorial, A4 landscape will do fine. Also make sure that the units field is set to pixels. (Click image to view full size)

Step 2: Import your existing artwork

Decide what your icon symbol will be. If you have an existing logo that you want to source your symbol from, then copy and paste it from it’s original .ai or .eps file into your new document. (Click image to view full size)

Step 3: Make your rounded rectangle

On your toolbar, select the rounded rectangle tool by holding your cursor down on the shape tool and clicking the rounded rectangle button. Single click a blank area on your artboard and input the follwing into the dialogue box: Width -> 250px, Height -> 250px, Corner Radius -> 40px. (Click image to view full size)

Step 4: Colour your rectangle and add a drop shadow

Choose the colour you want your icon to be (be sure to save it as a swatch too, as we will need this at a later stage). Now we want to add a soft drop shadow to bring the icon off the page. To do this go to Effect > Stylise > Drop Shadow… and set your parameters to: 30% opacity, X offset -> 0px, Y offset -> 0px, Blur -> 3px. (Click image to view full size)

Step 5: Make a darker version of your main swatch

Soon we will be adding a gradient to the icon to give it more shadow and contrast. Before we do this, we need to create a darker version of your existing main swatch. To do this (in your swatches panel), select the new swatch icon (bottom right of the panel) while you have your main swatch already selected. In the dialogue box, adjust the breakdown to darken your existing colour. To darken my royal blue colour, I changed the Key (Black) part of the breakdown from 0 to 60. If you are working in RGB it may be more difficult to darken your colour as easily as this, but have a play with the breakdowns (Holding Shift on one of the arrows moves them simultaneously) until you are happy. Once you have your colour, press ok to save it into your swatch palette. (Click image to view full size)

Step 6: Make a copy of your rounded rectangle and remove the drop shadow

Copy and paste your rounded rectangle to sit in front of your existing one. To do this, select the rectangle and copy it (Ctrl or Cmd + V), then paste in front (Ctrl or Cmd + F). If you are more organised than me (!) you can put this new rounded rectangle on a new layer (Window > Layers > Create New Layer), but is not necessary for this tutorial. Once you have done this, you need to remove the drop shadow inherited from your original rounded rectangle. To do this, go to Window > Appearance and uncheck the eye next to the Drop Shadow field in the panel. (Click image to view full size)

Step 7: Give your new rounded rectangle a gradient.

Select your new rounded rectangle, go to Window > Gradient and click the gradient toolbar on the panel to activiate the gradient. Change the two colours of the gradient by double clicking the respective squares. Change the dark end of the gradient to the dark version of your main swatch (Step 5) and change the light end to white. Ensure the opacity on the dark end of the gradient is set to 100%, and the light end is set to 0% (located below the gradient bar). Use the gradient tool in your toolbar to apply the gradient vertically on your new rounded rectangle.To ensure the contrast is not to steep, you can lower the opacity of the new rectangle if necessary (I lowered mine to 70%). (Click image to view full size)

Step 8: Create a third rounded rectangle and rotate.

Copy your second rounded rectangle and paste the new one in front (as done in Step 6). Select your new third rounded rectangle and rotate 180 degrees (ensure the rounded rectangle is turning on a centred axis and hold shift to snap) until you can see gradients coming from the top and bottom of your icon. Select the Gradient tool on your toolbar and adjust the gradient on your new rounded rectangle (the one going from bottom to top) to be a slight bit darker than the previous. (Click image to view full size)

Step 9: Create your symbol

Create your symbol and change the colour to be legible with your icon background. Ensure the symbol is at the very front, buy selecting it and bringing it to front ( Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + ] or Object > Arrange > Bring to front). Once you are happy with its location on the icon, ensure the symbol is selected and lock its position by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + 2 or Object > Lock > Selection. This ensures the symbol wont accidently get moved or get in the away at the later stages. (Click image to view full size)

Step 10: Begin creating the reflection for your icon.

First of all ensure your rulers are shown (Ctrl/Cmd + R), and that your guides aren’t hidden (Ctrl/Cmd + ;). Next select your top rounded rectangle and drag two guides to intersect with its middle point. Next, select the Ellipse tool (hold down the Shape button on the toolbar and select Ellipse) and draw a perfect circle over the top half of your rounded rectangle. To do this, put your cursor in the centre of the top side of the icon, hold Alt and Shift and drag until the bottom point of the circle is in line with your horizontal and vertical guides. (Click image to view full size)

Step 11a: Prepare your clipping mask.

Copy your top rounded rectangle and paste it in front of all your elements (Important! The clipping mask will not work if it is hasn’t been brought to the front). Change the colour of the rectangle to a plain bold colour to avoid you getting confused. Select your new rounded rectangle and your circle together by holding Shift. (Click image to view full size)

Step 11b: Make a clipping mask with your circle inside it.

Clip the circle by going to Object > Clipping Mask > Make or pressing Ctrl/Cmd + 7. You should now see a solid white semi circle that is flush with your icon.

Step 12: Get ready to give your semi-circle an opacity mask

Drag a square rectangle (hold down shape button in toolbar and select the rectangle) over 7/8ths of your semi-circle (so you are still able to click the circle for the next step) and give it a standard fade to black gradient, top to bottom. The ‘fade to black’ swatch should be a default swatch in your swatches palette. (Click image to view full size)

Step 13: Apply your opacity mask

Click both the gradient rectangle (again ensure this is at the very front of all the elements) and your clipped circle. Go to Window > Transparency and select ‘Make Opacity Mask’ in the drop down menu at the top right of the panel. (Click image to view full size)

Step 14: Adjust the opacity mask

In the transparency panel, ensure the ‘Invert Mask’ tick box is selected. Then, click the masked rectangle by first clicking the right black square in the transparency panel, then clicking the clipped semi-circle on your artboard. Widen the rectangle across the icon to compensate for the gap we left in Step 12. (Click image to view full size)

This is what your transparancy panel should now look like:

Step 15: Adjust the gradient in the opacity mask

With the masked rectangle still highlighted, select the gradient tool and adjust it so the blend is softened. Again, lower the opacity of the mask in the transparency panel if need be (I set mine to 95%).

All done! Hide your guides, have a look at the final product and get sharing!